Back in August, before classes started, I drove down the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway through the middle of New Mexico. After six months of traversing the state, this route remains my favorite, and in my opinion, the most beautiful by far. The Salt Missions Trail leads to the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, a sprawling circuit of three historical ruins 30 miles apart. This was an amazing initial immersion into the history of New Mexico, its first peoples, and their encounters with Spanish Missionaries beginning in the 17th century. That’s a lot of history. The three sites, Quarai, Abo, and Gran Quivira each have their own unique history, stories, peoples and architecture. I cannot recommend this monument enough. On that day in August, I was the only person at each of these monuments. The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument cemented my love affair with the beautiful state of New Mexico.
Gran Quivira is the most impressive of the three sites; well worth the extra 25 miles it tacks onto your visit (if approaching from the north). I visited this site first, arriving just as the morning sun was becoming hot enough to cause droplets of sweat to bead on my forehead. The adobe and rock used at this site was white, and against the color of sage and blue sky, the short walk up a hill to the ruin was awe inspiring.
The next site was Abo, and as a Pacific Northwesterner trying to shoot in late summer Southwest sun for the first time, the color is somewhat washed out. Abo was the most brilliant red of the three ruins; truly a site to behold.
Quarai is the smallest of the three ruins, and the mission that is most intact. Portions of this site were semi-rebuilt in the 1800s by later settlers in the area.